(*This post was originally written in 2008. It's been updated in 2015)
I loved my old freezer. As small as it was. That dinky thing hovering above my refrigerator held a multitude of meals. Back then I didn’t have a stand alone freezer then but what I did have I made the most of.
Not only did I keep frozen foods like veggies and meat in there I also kept pre-made dinners, excess butter, frozen celery and parsley, frozen tomato paste, cookie dough and much more.
True I had to be innovative in getting it all in there but I did and here’s how I made it work (and still do today even though I upgraded a bit).
I repackage meats, and frozen veggies with my FoodSaver: Not only does this baby suck out excess air so that my food lasts longer, getting all that air out means less space is taken up in my freezer and that means I can stuff more in!
With higher food prices on the horizon and my love for bulk shopping it was the only choice.
I freeze most everything in the vacuum storage bags. Once the air is out of those babies you get a ton in the fridge. I use these for soups, sauces, marinating meats, my tomato, and parsley ice cubes, my celery, bread crumbs and whatever else will fit in there.
I also do not repackage butter. I keep the butter blocks on the door. When butter went sky high a few years ago we started stocking up on it whenever it went on a good sale and still keep up the practice. I do personally use butter (and coconut oil) in all my baked goods from cakes to cookies and have never had a problem with the frozen butter.
Containerize: When you have a small freezer it pays to use boxes and bins to containerize items and keep them in their little spots in the freezer. Plastic bins tend to crack so this is a good place to repurpose cardboard boxes or pick up somewire baskets for the freezer.
So that’s about it for what I do to get the most out of my freezer.
Some tips to keep in mind when getting to work with your freezer
- Get to know what kinds of foods can be frozen.
- Use safe defrosting methods to make sure your food does not spoil during the thawing process.
- Write on your freezer bags so you know what is in there.
- Keep a freezer inventory. Update it weekly.
- Get a FoodSaver!
- National Center for Home Food Preservation
- General Frozen Food Guidelines
So I have a new freezer and I've been spending some time
hugging getting to know it. I'm a little shocked that after emptying the above the refrigerator freezer into it that it is more than half full already. I think that's pretty telling of how packed my above the refrigerator freezer was.
So here are some great tips and resources I found that might help you too.
I knew that although the freezer came with two hanging baskets the real job is organized below that. The stuff at the bottom. After reading around I discovered that those plastic crates you find in office supply stores can work pretty well. I have an 8.8 cu ft freezer and was able to fit two of these in there. I designated one of those for raw meats and the other for prepared meals. I will admit that I have a tiny bit of frost on the sides of my freezer and when I pulled up one of the crates it grated against that little bit of ice and ssshhhhiiiivvvveeerrrrrr it was like nails on a blackboard. I can still ‘hear' it now… ssshhhhiiiivvvveeerrrrrr
I also have smaller baskets that I'm using for butter, veggies, fruits, and my specialty flours (buckwheat, barley, graham, teff) . I have room for a few more baskets and I know I'm still getting accustomed to the whole thing.
Filling it Up
My goal for the freezer is preparing those meals that will help save time in the future and storing good buys and excess from the garden.
For great tips on preserving your foods from all sorts of sources I found this site Pick Your Own it's about pick your own farms, how to can, freeze, dry and more.
For ideas on what kinds of meals to put away I have quite a few resources, mostly books. There is this nice article to give you an idea of what you can put away.
Then these are the books I'm using for recipes.
Frozen Assets Lite and Easy: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month: I'm like the way this books is organized. By mini sessions by meat. For example I'm eyeing the ground turkey mini session. It's all laid out with recipes, shopping lists and preparation instructions. I never thought our menus were so light but I could work with this book. I'm checking it out from the library.
Make-A-Mix: I don't use all the recipes in this book but I do like the cookie and the baking mixes. I own this one.
More Make Your Own Groceries: This is an excellent book for freezer cooking and making staples. I have no idea why it is so expensive on Amazon. I own a copy. There are two editions, 1 and 2. I have both. 2 is the cover of the link and 1 has a yellow cover. They are both excellent.
For keeping up on what's inside I printed up a new sheet from my planner (yes I use Vintage Household Notes too) and put it in a sleeve. For now I taped it to the top but I'm looking at other ways to attach it. I opted for writing the ususal suspects in pen and then hash marks in pencil for how many I have going there.
I hope some of this has been a help to someone.
We've moved now and had to buy a new refrigerator. Our chest freezer came with us of course but the former refrigerator was property of the rental home.
When shopping for our new refrigerator, since we had a chest freezer, it was more important what was happening up top with the fridge. We ended up getting one with the freezer on the bottom option. You can see it in all it's messy glory in the pic up top.
I have yet to clean it up and organize but when I do you will be the first to know. Incidentally I don't use it as much as the chest freezer. I toss odds and ends in there and there is an ice maker we hardly use.
Get tips on cleaning your freezer over at Family, Faith, and Fridays 34 Weeks of Clean